We spent the morning in Santa Monica, enjoying a late breakfast, then walking on the Pier and 3rd St Promenade. We drove along route 1 to Malibu, where – on a side-street – we witnessed the harsh conditions in which people are forced to live. We met Soheila and Kaveh again and we spent some time enjoying the pleasant weather on Point Dume Beach.
There was one more place we planned to visit before declaring the vacation over: Hollywood. It was really easy to find Hollywood Blvd and even easier to be disappointed at what it had to offer. There were stars all over the sidewalk (with some of the names easy to recognize). They were not only on Hollywood Blvd, but also on streets intersecting it. The Capitol Records building looked good enough from distance, so we didn’t get very close to it. Other tourist attractions enjoyed our presence from a smaller distance. It was the case of Kodak Theatre (the home for Academy awards) and Grauman’s Chinese Theatre (where Lida found traces of her lost hero – Johnny Depp).
Driving back to Las Vegas was painful – every time the traffic was not stopped the cars were moving with 20-30 miles/hour. There were also some smart drivers who decided that they were too creative to wait like everybody else and started taking over on the emergency lane. Some of them probably got to Las Vegas earlier to celebrate the New Year.
After we stuffed our faces at the Alladin buffet for more money than we would have payed if it was not Christmas, we drove toward the Hoover Dam. Unfortunately the road was under construction and the delays were quite long. We turned around after we stopped at a viewpoint overlooking a marina at Lake Mead (later we realized that we were only 1.8 miles away from the dam).
Because it was getting dark and late, we decided to turn around and drive to San Diego. We got to the hotel at 11:30 pm. Nice hotel, but they rip you off with the parking ($10/night). We found a Denny’s open and had dinner sometime after midnight.
Staying in Startosphere comes with the advantage of free access to the tower, advertised as “the tallest freestanding observation tower in the United States and the tallest building west of the Mississippi”. The line was quite long, but we finally made it and enjoyed the city from 350 meters.
Later we met Yalda, then Soheila and Kaveh to have lunch at Pyramide Café in Luxor. We took advantage of the Luxor’s guests (Soheila and Kaveh) to see parts of the hotel restricted to regular tourists. This hotel overtook Caesar’s Palace on my list of the nicest Vegas hotels. Most of the other hotels we visited were disappointing. Mandalay Bay looked nice as a building but didn’t have anything special inside. We saw a couple of lions in MGM Grand, but – since we didn’t go there for a circus – nothing to be impressed about. Excalibur looked like a nice-little castle (especially at night, with its lights on), but only from the outside. New York was the worst, especially its outdated Times Square caricature. Walking so much – with the excitement level dropping lower and lower – put us in the mood to relax our senses with the Bellagio’s dancing fountains. The last hotel we visited, Paris, was ok, I’ll give it the forth place on my list.
While visiting several hotels, we realized that Las Vegas loses some of its glamour during the day. The biggest disappointment was Bellagio, whose kitschy interior could not compare with its tasteful exterior. Because of its elegance, Venetian became my favorite hotel – at least for a while. Wynn was also elegant, but didn’t seem to have anything special except for rumors regarding its pricy rooms. Mirage is worth visiting especially for its futuristic interior decor. After giving thumbs down to Treasure Island, we finished the day in Caesar’s Palace. It was too late to see the statues moving, but we enjoyed the walk through its shopping center. At the end of the day, my list of favorite Vegas hotels had Caesar’s Palace on the first position.
It was already dark when our plane approached the Las Vegas airport. We saw the city lights and recognized the Stratosphere – the hotel where we would spend a few nights. After taking the shuttle and settling in the hotel room, we went for a walk along the Strip. The pictures below tell almost all the story except for the allergy that hit Lida when we expected the least. After meeting Yalda at her hotel (Alladin), we walked back to ours.